Sandra and Terry Allen standing outside

Giving hearts

Terry, '70, and Sandra, '68, Allen

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Terry, ’70, and Sandra, ’68, Allen have a long history with Grand Valley and with each other. They married in 1969 after meeting as students on campus.

The Allens established the First Generation Diversity Scholarship, which assists students who are the first in their families to attend college. They see it as an opportunity to give back, support the university, and support students who will go on to make positive impacts as engaged citizens. The Allens, now retired and living in Zeeland, are Alumni Champions, committed to supporting the university and sharing the excitement and momentum of Grand Valley with their fellow alumni, encouraging them to play a more active role in the support of students.

How did you two meet?

Sandra: We met at Grand Valley in Dr. Glenn Niemeyer’s 20th Century American History course. Our first date was on the night of the final exam. We were married in Jenison in August 1969. I am a member of Grand Valley’s second class (’68) and Terry is a member of the fourth class (’70).

How were you introduced to Grand Valley?

Terry: I found out about Grand Valley from my high school guidance counselor, and took a trip to Allendale in 1966. After looking around, I went into the auditorium in Lake Superior Hall and heard a brief address from then-President Zumberge. He was youthful and full of enthusiasm for the college and its prospects. I caught and shared his excitement. A career officer from the State Department also spoke. I was impressed that this new school had attracted such an informative and high-placed guest. I applied and was accepted.

Terry, you worked for Church World Service. Talk about your experiences.

Terry: Church World Service is a relief and development agency; I worked for them from 1978–1980 and from 2005–2011. My first stint was as a regional director, working to organize community events and raise funds and awareness around hunger, primarily through CROP Hunger Walks in the Pacific Northwest. Working as the director of community fundraising in my second stint with CWS had me in charge of a wide-ranging network of regional offices and staff throughout the U.S.

Sandra, how did your time at Grand Valley impact your work as an elementary teacher?

Sandra: Grand Valley did not have an education major back then, so I was a social studies group major, with emphasis on history, even though I planned to teach elementary. I learned critical thinking and writing skills, which were important throughout my career.

Meeting the individual needs of each student was always a challenge, but rewarding.

What do you like to do in Grand Rapids?

Sandra: Growing up in Grandville, Grand Rapids was very different, since it had three major department stores. My sister, mom and I would take the bus downtown and spend the day there. Now that Terry and I are back in the area, we are re-learning Grand Rapids.

Terry: We became members of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies since moving here from Suttons Bay and are impressed at the variety of speakers and topics. The Wheelhouse series also brings in a good variety of leaders for more informal remarks.

Grand Valley has been through many changes since you were students. What are the most positive changes you’ve experienced?

Terry: I played on the basketball team my first two years at Grand Valley. When I was on the team, we practiced at the Jenison Junior High School gym and played our home games there. Times have changed. We have attended Laker men’s and women’s basketball games at the first-rate Fieldhouse. The libraries on the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses are quite impressive. Changes in technology have made research and writing far easier to undertake than when we were students.

You established the First Generation Diversity Scholarship. What inspired you to create this?

Sandra: We know what it’s like to want to do more and to be able to accomplish more. Sometimes we all need some extra help. Our scholarship idea was to support first-generation college, rising seniors who might also be working very hard to stay in school and support extended family. A scholarship directed specifically toward a student from a diverse background seemed like a good chance to help out where help might be most needed.

Terry: Finishing a degree and finding rewarding employment can change a life’s direction and open new possibilities. Perhaps some of these students can and will “pass it on” in the years ahead. It is our intention to see that this scholarship is endowed through our participation in Grand Valley’s Gillett Society, which is part of our estate plan.

simple drawing of a graduation cap inside a flag

What made you decide to become Alumni Champions?

Sandra: We wanted to give back to Grand Valley and encourage others to support the school, students, and the growing opportunities for education and service.

You find it important to give back to the community. What has been your greatest motivation to help others?

Sandra: We really enjoy being in the position to be able to give, and enjoy giving more than receiving. It makes us feel positive about ourselves and the possibilities for others. We like to serve in the communities we have lived in and make things better for all.

Why do you believe it is important to give back to Grand Valley? What would you say to encourage others to give back?

Terry: Others supported us and made it possible for us to have a wonderful education; they have given us the chance to help Grand Valley grow into what it has become. An attitude of gratitude is a very appropriate response as we give what we can, and even sacrificially, to make a similar experience for others. We are giving more than money, we are giving hope and a chance to realize potential and make a difference in a world that needs caring, informed citizens who are engaged and watchful. If you haven’t gotten around to giving, start now! It’s a good time to make a plan and get going.

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